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Anti-BDS legislation faces crucial hearing tomorrow in California Judiciary Committee

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It’s crunch time in California as the ongoing legislative assaults against BDS, introduced in multiple states including bills in Congress, intensifies. The latest incarnation in California’s anti-BDS attack is AB 2844 “California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016,” introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

AB 2844 barely passed the California State Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee last week and is set for a hearing by the house’s Judiciary Committee  tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19.

AB 2844 follows 2 pending efforts, AB 1551 and AB 1552 the “California Israel Commerce Protection Act,” introduced simultaneously by Assembly member Travis Allen, a right-wing Christian Fundamentalist who recently traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli legislators in an effort to garnered support for the bills, which he claims are “Due to Discrimination and Bigotry“.

The intention of all 3 bills is to legislate penalizing businesses and entities participating in boycotts against Israel. If passed the state and all state affiliated institutions would be prohibited from engaging in contracts with businesses boycotting Israel as well as imposing huge fines/penalties on those businesses if found to be violating the provisions of the pending legislation, essentially blacklisting all businesses supporting BDS from state and state municipality contracts. This is unconstitutional because political speech is protected by the 1st amendment and, according to the Supreme Court, so are politically motivated boycotts (note the “demands for equality and racial justice”).

Hence, the necessity of pro Israel anti-boycotters to claim those seeking justice and equality in Palestine/Israel by way of non violent protest (BDS) are “discriminating” against Israel due to “anti-Jewish” bigotry — and completely disregarding and ignoring the gross human and civil rights violations that decades of occupation entail and the literally billions of dollars in profits corporations rack up oppressing Palestinians and empowering the occupation — which is the reason socially conscious citizens choose to boycott Israel in the first place!

The coalition to stop AB 1551 & AB 1552 [and subsequently AB 2844], representing dozens of civil rights organizations, asserts:

AB 2844: New number, still unconstitutional:

[T]he Supreme Court has unequivocally ruled that boycotts in pursuit of humanitarian and social justice goals are a form of political speech entitled to the highest protection under the First Amendment. The court has further held that government at any level must not deny economic benefits, including public contracts, in retaliation for political beliefs. 

Here’s the background on this Supreme Court decision. Sixteen years after Black citizens of Claiborne County, Mississippi voted to boycott white merchants in the area because white elected officials refused their demands for racial equality and racial integration in 1966, resulting in the longest economic boycott in the history of the United States known as the “Port Gibson Boycott”, the Supreme Court settled NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware in 1982:

“although States have broad power to regulate economic activities, they could not prohibit peaceful political activity such as that found in the boycott that was the subject of the case… nonviolent elements of the petitioners’ activities were protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and holding that the petitioners were not liable in damages for the consequences of their nonviolent, protected activity.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and Palestine Legal submitted a Memorandum of Law (which should be read in full) in February to California Assembly lawmakers in opposition to the pending legislation and thus far, neither AB 1551 or AB 1552 have been assigned to committee. Local activists told me the bills had been “dumped”. However, Bloom’s AB 2844, California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016, which is “virtually identical to the draft amended AB 1522 in its operative elements“, is in full swing having already passed one committee (by only a 1 vote margin), which makes the looming hearing before the state’s Judiciary committee this Tuesday particularly crucial. Local Marin activist Esther Riley, working with the Coalition to stop AB 2844, told me “We are now desperately trying to get the Judiciary Committee to vote against AB 2844 when they meet on Tuesday, April 19. We’re trying to get people in their districts to call members of the committee.”

From the opposition Memorandum:

An unconstitutional state boycott to punish boycotts of conscience

….[B]oycotts imposed by AB 1551 and AB 1552 [and the amended AB2844] do not seek to bring about political or social justice – they aim to punish those of its citizens who do engage in boycott activity as an act of conscience, and thereby to silence them.


The state should not be used to shield a foreign country from political criticism by penalizing the decisions of private citizens and corporations regarding what companies they will do business with and how they will invest their money in a manner consistent with their values. This would be a grave overreach of governmental power and an unprecedented assault on the free speech rights of Californians and those who do business with the state of California…….

Retired Attorney Carol Sanders, JVP-Berkeley,  who has been working closely with attorneys from Palestine Legal and the National Lawyers Guild on opposing these bills and is one of the primary co-authors of the Memorandum, told Mondoweiss: “When California enacted legislation to divest from companies that did business with apartheid South Africa, the objective was to penalize those who were complicit with that state’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. With AB 2844, California is considering legislation to do the exact opposite — to penalize companies who decide not to be complicit with state human rights abuses and violations of international law, and who disengage from doing business there.”

National Lawyers Guild Attorney David L. Mandel, JVP-Sacramento, and primary co-author with Sanders of the opposition Memorandum, mentioned to me how ironic it was that Veolia could easily get snagged up in this fight because they have dozens of huge contracts spread out all over the state (Oakland’s transit system comes to mind). Because Veolia sold off all their assets in Israel last year (representing a huge victory for the Palestinian led BDS movement who had long targeted the French corporate giant), Mandel said “if Veolia is a boycotter they would have to cancel the contracts “.  And California blogger and activist Marcy Winograd asserted this would create a “tsunami” for Veolia contracts in California. Strange bedfellows indeed if Veolia ended up on the wrong side of California’s anti-BDS AB 2844.

Mandel, who’s extended an exorbitant effort opposing this legislation, said it’s a costly time-consuming process. Maintaining and facilitating this blacklist of businesses would create untold stress and resources on municipalities throughout the state.

Rumor has it, supporters of this bill are figuring that out and lawmakers are scurrying to amend the bill yet again before Tuesday’s hearing — possibly limiting the breadth and scope of the legislation to state institutions and not county, city or small municipalities who simply don’t have the funds to carry out these investigations and/or dumping long held contracts.

Mandel told me, “It’s a horrible waste of everybody’s time, the educational work we need to do — it’s become a big contention, meetings and negotiations — the state has all sorts of priorities; economy, welfare, employment, housing and health care to improve lives of Californians — eaten into by the time that’s wasted by stuff like this.” If the bill passes the Judiciary committee it would proceed on says Mandel, “unless amendments remove the state financial obligation it would create, it will need to go to Appropriations, and that would probably take a while.”

In the letter Sanders personally sent to the committee she asks:

Why are our legislators repeatedly diverted from the pressing needs of our state, and asked instead to advance the interests of another country, and to silence the growing segment of their constituencies critical of that country’s policies? Every major human rights organization in the world has documented and condemned Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and its grave human rights abuses against the Palestinian people in the territory it has occupied militarily for almost half a century…..

That’s a good question. Why are they? In March of 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Prime Minister Netanyahu trumped as a “historic agreement” between California and Israel to “strengthen economic and research ties”.  It was sponsored by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. Sanders mentioned to me that as a Jew she finds the California Legislative Jewish Caucus “very troubling” because it suggests being Jewish is supporting Israel. “It sets parameters for what it means to be a Jew and one thing it means is you must support Israeli policies.  When the Jewish Caucus was first established a member said it was ‘a caucus to further concerns of the Jewish community and of course express our support and love for Israel.'”

This goes far beyond expressing support. Once our governor signed the pact with Netanyahu, does that mean that I, as a Californian, am obligated to support Israel too? And if I don’t I am working against the best interest of my state? Where will it end?

More from Sanders letter to lawmakers:

AB 2844 represents one in a barrage of bills and resolutions that assail our legislators, and seek to ensure political cover and, more recently, economic favoritism for Israel.  A few years ago, battles were waged over HR 35, which directly conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.  Next came SCR 35, which rightly condemned racism on campus, but vastly overstated isolated incidents of anti-Semitism and invoked a definition of anti-Semitism that, again, conflates criticism of Israel with hatred of the Jewish people. 

Since then pro-Israel efforts have aggressively focused on legislation protecting Israel’s economy, and further advancing Israel as California’s premier trading partner.  This is so even though California and Israel already have one of the largest two-way trade relationships in the U.S, amounting to $4.2 billion in 2014, and even though Israel has one of the strongest economies in the world, and already receives more in U.S. taxpayer dollars than any other country in the world. ……

It’s time for our representatives to say “enough is enough” and to refocus their attention on providing the legislation and funding needed to improve California’s economy and standard of living for our most vulnerable populations. Leave the political debate about Israel to be waged in the public forum, unfettered by government repression or favoritism.

Perhaps the California Legislative Jewish Caucus have confused our state capitol with the Knesset:

"Capitol Knesset" Senator Marty Block Photo: California Legislative Jewish Caucus

Capitol Knesset” Senator Marty Block Photo: California Legislative Jewish Caucus

Thanks to Esther Riley

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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38 Responses

  1. a blah chick on April 18, 2016, 12:26 pm

    It really is telling that they are tryng to amend the legislation so as to not threaten the Veolia contracts. I mean, come on, California! Isn’t Veolia just the kind of company you want to make an example of? Or is that not on the table when it costs YOU money or convenience?

    I recently read an article (I think on Electric Intifada, can’t recall) where Indiana made a list of companies they were going to boycott for their supposed boycotting of Israel. Turns out they were all European companies that did not even do business in Indiana. In fact one on their list was still doing business in Israel! These people have no idea what they are doing.

    • gitelsura on April 18, 2016, 3:04 pm

      California residents can write to CA Assembly Judiciary Committee members, with cc’s to staff, listed below, asking them to vote against the bill. Ask that your opposition be entered as part of the public record. If you’re pressed for time, at least write to Chair Mark Stone and to the Committee Secretary Cindy Morante (at end of list).. Also write to or cc your own assembly representative.

      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected]

      Judiciary Committee Legislative directors and committee

      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];
      [email protected];

      • annie on April 18, 2016, 4:07 pm

        thank you very much gitelsura. i will do so right now!

      • ritzl on April 18, 2016, 6:19 pm

        Is the “I” supposed ti be at the front of Stone’s email?

      • ritzl on April 18, 2016, 7:03 pm

        OK. It seemed important so I toned it down and sent an email (Stone, Morante) even though I’m not in CA.

        I am from out of state but felt I needed to say something.  This bill should not be passed out of committee.  It is deeply flawed.

        Beyond all the gross Constitutional affronts, AB2844 will have the opposite of its intended business effect. It will almost certainly serve to dry up new investment in Israel.

        No business that isn’t currently doing business in Israel will enter that tiny market when they risk losing access to vastly larger markets in the event they withdraw from the Israeli market, for any reason whatsoever, and with the “offense” being decided by person or persons unknown.

        No rational business (i.e. every business), assessing a cost-benefit decision on investing in operations in Israel, would consider this acceptable risk.  It is unquantifiable at best and overtly destructive at worst.  Unless there is some hugely offsetting upside, the decision to begin operations in Israel would simply be NO.

        There are many reasons not to pass this bill.  This is just one of them.  I hope the Committee makes a broader, more thorough assessment of Constitutional law and business effect implicitly and explicitly incorporated into this proposed legislation, and tables it.


        Thanks for the email list gitelsura.

  2. a blah chick on April 18, 2016, 12:27 pm

    Oh, my God, I just looked at that picture, the “Capitol Knesset”!?

    • annie on April 18, 2016, 2:24 pm

      i know, i was flabbergasted when i saw that. i left the link below it because it was so mindblowing — almost unbelievable.

      • Steve Grover on April 18, 2016, 2:54 pm

        A synagogue in Hebrew is Bait Knesset. Literally Knesset means gathering or assembly. So don’t be so flabbergasted.

      • annie on April 18, 2016, 7:40 pm

        steve, it may surprise you to know that there are a lot of californians who elected members of the california legislative jewish caucus to congress, for reasons unrelated to israel. and there’s a very good chance most of those people do not speak hebrew. there’s a very good chance the vast majority of americans only associate the knesset with one thing, this building in israel that the government is run out of. just like if one wrote “capitol pentagon” the majority of americans would think it was related to that place in DC where they headquarter the DoD, and NOT a plane figure with five straight sides and five angles. and i am sure the california legislative jewish caucus knows all this.

        so i’ll remain flabbergasted.

      • Sibiriak on April 18, 2016, 8:21 pm

        Annie Robbins: there’s a very good chance most of those people do not speak hebrew

        The word in question, “Knesset”, is an English word, despite its Hebrew origin , so it is the English meaning of the word which is in play–the Hebrew root is as irrelevant as the Latin root of the word “Capitol” (“Capitolium” , temple of Jupiter at Rome on the Capitoline hill.)

        In English, “Knesset” means the unicameral parliament of Israel.

        The juxtaposition with “Capitol”– a building in which a state legislative body meets— emphasizes the related meanings.

      • Steve Grover on April 18, 2016, 10:39 pm

        It is not uncommon for Jewish organizations and Synagogues to use the word Knesset in the name of their organization or Shul. I am sure organizations of Greek Orthodox legislators use Greek words in the names of their organizations too.
        Anyway, I like the name Capitol Knesset.

      • Marnie on April 19, 2016, 12:33 am

        Steve SEZ: “So don’t be so flabbergasted”.

        Its the united states ffs, not zioland. It makes about as much sense to say capital knesset (pander much?) as it would to call it the reichstag…

        BTW its beit (as in house) – not bait as in a worm, grub or something else unsavory that’s used as a lure to catch…wait a sec – guess that works too.

  3. ritzl on April 18, 2016, 2:37 pm

    Beyond all the gross Constitutional affronts, these types of legislative efforts will have the opposite of their intended effect. They will likely serve to dry up new investment in Israel.

    No business that isn’t currently doing business in Israel will enter that tiny tiny tiny market when they risk losing access to vastly larger markets should they withdraw from the Israeli market for any reason whatsoever, with the “offense” being decided by person or persons unknown (i.e. star chambers).

    It’s a no brainer.

    Israel is going to lose the broader business lobby as even acquiescent allies. The Iran deal initiated that divorce. From a business perspective, all these Israel-initiated “me first, you last” trade-restraining efforts stand to cause non-military businesses to lose tens of $Bs in sales.

    Hmm. Boeing v. AIPAC? There’s a tussle Bernie could synergistcally leverage to the advantage of his candidacy, Boeing (as an example), and the well paid union employees in Washington state.

    Relating to the “left wing base” article currently up here, there’s a much broader and deeper dynamic than just the outraged energy in the youthful “left” which is enabling Sanders to break new political ground.

    Great article Annie.

    • annie on April 18, 2016, 4:21 pm

      thank you ritzl. i hope you write the judiciary today. you’re in calif aren’t you?

      • ritzl on April 18, 2016, 5:57 pm

        Is Alabama in California? :)

        Can anyone write, or do we have to be constituents?

      • annie on April 18, 2016, 7:24 pm

        you probably don’t have to be in california, but i am not sure if it would go on the record in quite the same way. i suppose if they got flooded with emails from out of state it may have an impact tho.

  4. a blah chick on April 18, 2016, 3:39 pm

    “Literally Knesset means gathering or assembly. So don’t be so flabbergasted.”

    So why didn’t they just call it the Capitol Assembly? Obviously they want to imply they are representing Knesset interests in California. Isn’t that what a diplomatic corps is for? But thanks for playing.

    • annie on April 18, 2016, 4:20 pm

      even if they do not want to imply they are representing knesset interests in california, that’s what they are doing. they SPONSORED the “pact” between california and israel that gov brown and netanyahu signed — according to them on their website. i would urge everyone to open the jpost link embedded in “Assembly member Travis Allen, a right-wing Christian Fundamentalist who recently traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli legislators

      just days after that was published AB 2844 was introduced. so yes, this is clearly what they were doing. also, there is a lot that didn’t make it into this article because it was too long as is. over 1/2 the information i collected for the article didn’t make it in — in the interest brevity. i cut into it heavily, picked and chose what to publish.

      there was a partisan squabble over travis’s bill — that’s what delayed the dem caucus’s bill. long story.

      also, one part (2 full paragraphs) that got cut i recently put back in. it’s in the middle, about the longest boycott in american history and supreme court decision that confirms boycotts are protected speech (and more). i hope everyone reads it!

  5. JWalters on April 18, 2016, 9:19 pm

    Thanks for this excellent report.

    It’s understandable, however, that Israel and its collaborators in America would not care about American standards of justice or free speech. It’s understandable that Israel and its collaborators in America would continue their policies and actions of sabotaging America’s ideals in order to drag the U.S. into more needless wars for Israel. It’s understandable that their subservience to war profits, and their belief in their ethnic supremacy would continue to override any normal considerations of human decency and justice. And it’s understandable that Israel and its collaborators in America would subject Americans to any expense and trouble to keep Americans from finding out the full FACTS about Israel.

    My profound thanks to all those on the front lines battling this masked monster.

  6. Marnie on April 19, 2016, 3:14 am

    Per the capitol knesset’s link Annie provided:

    Our Mission

    “The mission of this caucus is to:
    1.Be a Jewish voice for justice, equality, and progress.
    2.Promote the, educational, social, legislative, professional and cultural interests of its members.
    3.Serve as a resource to, and advocate on behalf of, the professional, educational, social, political and cultural concerns of the Jewish Community.
    4.Develop and advance programs and policies that further the interests of the Jewish Caucus.”

    The interests of all Californians will take a back seat to the “professional, educational, social, political and cultural concerns of the Jewish Community” (read israel).

    Who are they trying to fool? Maybe no one at all as the Capitol Knesset banner is pretty in your face. Please see the website, but don’t eat anything before you do. The ‘Jewish community’ is now the zionist enterprise? Didn’t get that memo. This is incredibly disgusting. I’m running out of words to describe this and trying very very hard not to resort to my usual more colorful descriptives.

    The photo album was a complete gross-out featuring the grinning minions’ photo-ops with bibi the blue-haired booby. Gerry Brown looks ancient – he photographed a lot better when he was with Linda before he sold his soul to the devil.

    • Steve Grover on April 19, 2016, 7:51 pm

      I was enjoying a Cabernet Sauvignon from Samaria while looking through the gallery

      • talknic on April 20, 2016, 5:34 am

        Bragging about supporting the illegal exploitation of non-Israeli territories again Steve.

        Thanks again for showing people the type of ugly, sick, f*cked up mentality the Zionist colonization program attracts. You must be so proud!

      • bryan on April 20, 2016, 6:08 am

        Also, I guess, so much cheaper than a bottle of Apartheid era South African, or Pinochet-era Chilean, or a really good Claret from Vichy France. Cheaper, but scarcely less reprehensible.

      • Mooser on April 20, 2016, 11:55 am

        “You must be so proud!”

        “Grover” needs a breathalyzer- interlock on his Internet connection.

      • Steve Grover on April 20, 2016, 3:10 pm

        Ain’t too proud to brag about Israel or Zionism, Talknic. I am only limited by what the moderators let through.

        BTW, I bought 2 cases of that wine for Pesach. I highly recommend it. I wish you and your family a joyous and Kosher Pesach, Talknic.

      • talknic on April 20, 2016, 8:38 pm

        @ Steve Grover April 20, 2016, 3:10 pm

        “Ain’t too proud to brag about Israel or Zionism”

        As a supporter of Israel’s criminal activities you’re doing great Steve. Keep up the good work.

      • Steve Grover on April 20, 2016, 9:23 pm

        If I was doing such great work as you say, you would be going to your local Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration on May 12th and join in the festivities by singing Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

      • talknic on April 20, 2016, 11:26 pm

        @ Steve Grover April 20, 2016, 9:23 pm

        “If I was doing such great work…”

        “If”? You’re doing a great job of showing people the mentality that encourages and results in murder

      • YoniFalic on April 21, 2016, 2:20 am

        Yerushalayim shel zahav is so associated in Israel with the extreme right that the Israeli version of Schindler’s List took it out of the film.

      • oldgeezer on April 21, 2016, 8:36 am

        Curiousity question. The song refers to the scent of pine trees. It is my understanding that the pine tree was not native to Israel.

        Is this the case or not?

        No political aspect to the question… I just found it an odd reference if the pine tree is not a native plant.

      • Shmuel on April 21, 2016, 9:31 am

        Curiousity question. The song refers to the scent of pine trees. It is my understanding that the pine tree was not native to Israel. Is this the case or not?

        Although the word used for pine in the song (oren, pl. oranim) does not mean pine in Biblical Hebrew, a number of varieties of pine are native to Palestine. The best known is probably the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) — known in Israeli Hebrew as Oren yerushalayim (Jerusalem pine).

      • oldgeezer on April 21, 2016, 9:47 am



  7. RockyMissouri on April 19, 2016, 10:20 am

    Annie, thank you for an interesting article. I appreciate and admire your knowledge of these matters.

  8. Ossinev on April 19, 2016, 10:53 am

    I continue to lean towards the positive with regards to these Zionist driven “legislative” efforts to counter BDS:

    A) It illustrates clearly that JSIL and the JSIL firsters in the US are increasingly worried about the message and impact of BDS
    B) The more they push for these patently un – American laws the more Americans not previously aware , including younger Jewish Americans , will become aware of the sheer scope of JSIL control and machinations in US politics.
    C) The more they become aware the more they will think “wait a minute this is just not right” and the more they will question their bought and bent “legislators” about their JSIL first policies and spending , and their blatant hypocrisy

    BOYCOTT UGLY APARTHEID ISRAEL(Netanyahu`s Jewish State in the Levant)

  9. Ossinev on April 19, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Meanwhile the leading US “mediators” in the I/P conflict continue to risk their reputations and income? by tickling the Yahoo and co on the wrist for their ongoing settlement naughtiness:

    “Biden cited unilateral recourse to international organizations such as the International Criminal Court on the part of the Palestinians and Israeli settlement policies as “damaging moves that only take us further from the path toward peace.” Biden noted that he has “opposed settlements for more than three decades because I believe they are counterproductive to security,” and took pride in recounting a shouting match on the topic between himself and former prime minister Menachem Begin.”

    Note that surprise surprise he prefaces the comments about the settlements AFTER the comments about the Palestinians going to the ICC and ignores the simple fact that because of JSIL`s blatant flouting of International Law they have no other options. And again no surprise that the reason he has so ” admirably ” opposed the settlements is because of JSIL`s need for “security” not because they are self evidently illegal blatant land thefts which are brutality enforced and “secured” by an occupying army.

    Biden should be grateful it`s only reputation and money. In the good old “freedom fighter” days of Begin and Shamir he would have been risking his life having any form of argument with such leading JSIL lights ( viz Count Bernadotte )

  10. ckg on April 19, 2016, 3:48 pm

    I am not sure why the California legislature would take actions that invite BDS supporters to spend their vacation dollars elsewhere. After all, any individual consumer who supports BDS can more easily boycott California than California can boycott that consumer.

    Next time you’re considering where to vacation, take a glance first at the Anti-BDS Legislation Map at Palestine Legal.

  11. JLewisDickerson on April 20, 2016, 7:15 am

    RE: “It’s crunch time in California as the ongoing legislative assaults against BDS, introduced in multiple states including bills in Congress, intensifies. The latest incarnation in California’s anti-BDS attack is AB 2844 ‘California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016’, introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.” ~ Annie Robbins

    If these legislators are so desperate to appease the Zionists, why don’t they do the full monty and fellate a donkey (or a big ol’ bear* like that one on the state flag of California).
    At least that would be constitutional.
    And it might even earn them a guest appearance on SNL!**

    * a href=”>He’s ready (i.e. already in position) for you guys!He’s ready (i.e. in position) for you guys. Go for it – it’s crunch time!!!

    ** SNL on Hagel: ‘It is vital to Israel’s security for you to go on national television and perform oral sex on a donkey… Would you do THAT for Israel?’ –

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